The Transformation of Grief

Laurel’s Legacy and transforming tragedy into something extraordinary, something monumental

Article by Chelsea Chambers

Photography by Laurel's Legacy

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of being human is our innate ability to transform tragedy into something extraordinary, something monumental. For the Richter family, that’s exactly what they did after losing their mother—Laurel—to a long battle with cancer.

“What I remember most was my mom’s positively infectious personality and her smile. She was beautiful and she lived life with such a powerful presence,” shared Pete Richter, Laurel’s eldest son.

Shortly after the Laurel’s passing, family friend Todd Pike, came up with the idea to host a large gathering, a luau, in Laurel’s honor. It was a way to come together in support, to honor and cherish Laurel’s memory, and to share stories about her life and the many people she impacted.

With no expectations other than to create a space of healing, Todd and Gary (Laurel’s husband), bought a large pig and some drinks for the evening. Laurel’s reach was wide, and hundreds of people showed up to the event. Without prompting, everyone at the luau began pooling their own money together to help support the cost of the food and by the end of the night, they had more money than they started with. In that moment, they realized that in Laurel’s honor, they could make this an annual event and raise money for other families affected by cancer.

“After every Laurel’s Luau event, I feel overwhelmingly humbled by the generosity of our friends, family, and community,” Pete said. To date, the organization has raised more than $70,000 and these funds go directly to beneficiaries and their families, to help offset the painstaking cost of cancer treatment.

Over a decade later, Todd also fought his own battle with cancer and passed away in early 2014. His eldest son Kyle joined Laurel’s three children—Pete, Sam, and Stephanie—in taking over the planning and organizing of the annual Luau.

I attended the event myself for the first time in 2022 and, despite knowing only a handful of the hundreds of people in attendance, was welcomed with open arms and endless plates of food. I watched people laugh heartily, with tears welling in their eyes, as they shared stories of not only Laurel and Todd, but also the beneficiaries and their families. It was a blessing to witness such a strong display of love in the face of so much pain and hardship. Because in truth, the only way to heal from all the grief, suffering, and loss that cancer brings, is with a heartful of love. And a full belly helps too.

By the end of the evening, after devouring more tri-tip and fried rice than a human should eat, the air was simply vibrating. Even as the sky opened up and rain burst down in sheets, splashing into cups and over tabletops, the mood wasn’t dampened. It was alight with laughter and people frantically packing away wet canopies. And once again, the group came together, without prompting, without force, to overcome the challenges that life often offers us.

Even now, months later, my heart still rings with the energy of Laurel’s (and Todd’s) Legacy.

To learn more about this beautiful initiative, visit them online at or on social media @LaurelsLegacy.

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